Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Jamaican Vacation Spot: Negril

Negril is a large beach resort located across parts of two Jamaican parishes, Westmoreland and Hanover. Westmoreland is the westernmost parish in Jamaica, located on the south side of the island. Downtown Negril, the West End cliff resorts to the south of downtown, and the southern portion of the seven mile beach are in Westmoreland. The northernmost resorts on the beach are actually located in Hanover. Both parishes are part of the county of Cornwall. The nearest large town and capital of Westmoreland is Savanna-la-Mar.


The name "Negril" is a shortened version of "Negrillo," as it was originally named by the Spanish in 1494. The name is thought to be a reference to the black cliffs south of the village. Although Negril has a long history, it did not become well known until the second half of the twentieth century. Negril's development as a resort location began during the late 1950s, though access to the area proved difficult as ferries were required to drop off passengers in Negril Bay, forcing them to wade to shore. Most vacationers would rent rooms inside the homes of Jamaican families, or would pitch tents in their yards. The area's welcoming and hospitable reputation grew over time and the first of many resorts were constructed in the mid to late 1960s.

When the road between Montego Bay and Negril was improved in the early 1970s, it helped to increase Negril's status as a new resort location. It was a two-lane paved road that ran approximately 100 yards inland from two white coral sand beaches, at the southern end of which was a small village. The long paved road from the village ran north to Green Island, home to many of the Jamaican workers in Negril.

After Negril's infrastructure was expanded, in anticipation of the growth of resorts and an expanding population, a small airport was built near Rutland Point, alongside several small hotels mostly catering to the North American winter tourists. Europeans also came to Negril, and several hotels were built in order to cater directly to those guests.

Geography and Ecology

The geography of Jamaica is quite diverse. The western coastline contains the island's finest beaches, stretching for more than six kilometers along a sandbar at Negril. It is known as the "7-Mile Beach" although it is only slightly more than 4 miles in length, from the Negril River on the south to Rutland Point on the north.

On the inland side of Negril's main road, to the east of the shore, lies a swamp called the Great Morass, through which runs the Negril River, amidst which is the Royal Palm Reserve, with wetlands that are protected since they are responsible for the growth of coral in the region, which upon death, begin to decay, helping to form coral sand along the beachfront.

In 1990, the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society (NCRPS) was formed as a non-profit, non-governmental organization to address ongoing degradation of the coral reef ecosystem. The Negril Marine Park was officially declared on March 4, 1998 covering a total area of approximately 160 square kilometers and extending from the Davis Cove River in the Parish of Hanover to St. John’s Point in Westmoreland. The Government of Jamaica delegated the NCRPS to manage the Negril Marine Park in 2002.

Negril Today

For years, Negril's has been rated as one of the top ten beaches in the world by many travel magazines. The north end of the beach is home to the large, all-inclusive resorts, and to the south are the smaller, family-run hotels. This combination gives the Negril area a large variety of rooms, services and prices. South of downtown Negril is West End Road, known as the cliff area, which is lined with resorts that offer more privacy. These areas offer easy access to waters good for snorkeling and diving, with jumping points reaching more than 40 feet high. Rick's Cafe is a great place to watch the cliff jumpers or become a cliff jumper yourself. Rick's is considered one of the 1,000 places to go before you die.

That Negril is still fairly underdeveloped remains a significant factor in its undoubted charm. This may not last, as a new highway from Montego Bay and an improved infrastructure may bring more tourists. In recent years it has also shown signs of becoming a popular location for U.S. college students to visit during spring break.

The last few years have seen major development along the famed "Seven Mile Beach." The resorts include Couples, Sandals, Beaches, Grand Lido and Hedonism II. A branch of Jimmy Buffett's chain restaurant and bar, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, and a duty free zone have also been added.

Negril Photo Gallery

See You in Negril